Sunday Post 169: Dear Sarah

I received an email last week from Sarah. She’s a mom with a chronic illness. At some point in the future, she will need a liver transplant. If she doesn’t get one, she won’t make it.

In the correspondence, Sarah told me she was trying to live each day to the fullest. She shared that she was beginning to preserve her thoughts for her husband and daughter – just in case. She then asked me if there were things I would suggest she do now in the event she isn’t around ten years from now.

It made me stop and think.

As I pondered my response, I put some thoughts together on what I’d do differently had I known ten years in advance that Lisa would die.

 Dear Sarah,

 It sounds like you are approaching your life in a strong and courageous way. Of course, our situation was dire from the start, but I can’t tell you how inspiring it was for our family to watch my wife fight with a positive attitude. She never felt sorry for herself (at least outwardly), and she kept hope until the bitter end. Her strength and optimism made it so much easier for us. She didn’t spend the last six months of her life crying. She laughed and lived, what a blessing for us.

 You have tons of time! Enjoy each minute – and when you live to be 90, you will have maximized every minute which most of us don’t do.

 I think that we did some things very well. Our memories of Lisa, our ability to talk about her with humor and warmth are all wonderful. The girls and I laugh about her often. There are, however, a couple of things I would have changed had I known she would die so young.

 1)    I would have taken more pictures. Lisa was our family photographer so we have plenty of family photos but just not that many of her. I wish I had great snapshots of Lisa with each of the girls. I wish we would have captured her expressions, the ones I can’t see anymore. Occasionally I find a pic tucked away somewhere. But there aren’t enough. There aren’t close ups. She hated close ups of herself. 

Sometimes I want to see that face – and my memory only captures a bit of what we shared.

 I work hard now to capture those casual moments with the girls and me. They will have plenty of photos of me and I’ll have pictures of them that will be with us for life.

 2)    The last weekend my wife lived, she scratched short notes to each of the girls. She was so sick at the time I had to do some of the writing for her – she would talk, I would scribe.

 I wish she had done more writing or video taping to share what she wished for the kids. I’ve heard of moms who died who left notes for their kids to be read on special occasions. We don’t have that. We can just imagine what she might have said. That may not be something you need to do now, but in the future you may want to consider leaving a written legacy for your kids.

 3) Finally, for me, there have been hundreds of times that I wish I had known more about what she would have done in various situations. How would she have dealt with dating, prom, hurt feelings by the “mean girls,” buying expensive shoes, when to allow my teenager to drive out-of-town by herself. I wish we would have talked more about heaven and what she, what we, believed. I knew, but not enough.

You’re on the right track. I don’t have regrets of how we dealt with her death. I just wish we would have focused more on our marriage, taken advantage of opportunities to travel as a couple or a family, realized that the afternoons we drank a beer on the beach were special and not something that would come to an abrupt end. I wish we would have made more fires in our outdoor fireplace, maybe held hands more often. I do miss her hands.

I think everyone should do a better job of thinking about life as if it was precious and not going to be here forever. If we’d all do that, we’d all be a lot happier in the long run.

Danny

Sunday Post 168: What is a Mother?

A mother may carry you in her belly for nine months and be the primary caregiver in your life.

Or, a mother may officially belong to your friend but still tell you how special and beautiful you are.

A mother might be a church elder who walks your kids through their church confirmation process.

A mother could be the Aunt who after a long days work takes her nieces to the Food Bank to volunteer to meet their required school service hours.

A mom might be the friend who texts ten days in a row in anticipation of your child’s pathology report.

She could be a housekeeper who quietly goes the extra mile, week after week after week.

A mom might actually be 77 years old and might still pray for her too stressed out son every single day.

Or a grandparent who volunteers in her grandkids’ schools because their mom isn’t around to do it herself.

A mom might be the former art teacher who takes her favorite student to dinner three years after the kid last took her class.

A mom could be the one to tell the single dad that his daughter really needs white jeans to fashionably make it through the summer.

Or, a mom might actually be a dad – a dad who loves his kids as much as any other two parents ever could together.

Sunday Post 117: Love My Mom

I have such wonderful memories with my mom, and we’re still working on building more!

I remember her, as the preacher’s wife, sitting on the front row of our church.  Very few others would sit that close to the pulpit so we often had our pew to ourselves.  As a young kid, when it neared sermon time, I’d sprawl out, legs stretched out, thumb heading toward my mouth.  I’d plunk my head in mom’s lap.  She’d scratch my head.  Sometimes I’d curl up in a ball.  It’s as if I were in my own bed.  Wouldn’t wake up until she stood for the Doxology!

As a young teenager, I once coaxed my mom into running around the car with me at a stoplight.  I begged and begged, it was very in at the time.  She finally relented.  We pulled up, each of us jumped out of the car.  One lap around and I was back at the passenger seat.  Interestingly, my mom was nowhere to be seen.  As I walked to the front of the car, I found her laying face down on the pavement.  Apparently her red sandal high heels weren’t meant for running on gravel.  She ripped her hose and laughed and laughed.

Another time, when I was in high school, we were in the car on our way to a southern Baptist covered dish  dinner.  Mom had me hold the Corningware pot of field peas, just taken off the stove.  She wasn’t known for her driving prowess,  and her short frame kept her from fully seeing at intersections.  The one at the corner of Marlborough Road and Village Drive slipped up on her that day.  She braked hard.  Scalding pea juice poured into my lap.  She got tickled.  I bit my lip to ease the pain.  Went home and had to pull down my pants to see if anything had melted away.

I can’t count the number of times my mother and I got tickled in church.  Weddings were the worst.  Once we were at a 3rd cousin’s wedding in rural South Carolina.  As the Kimball organ started playing Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady, we lost it.  The more I laughed, the more she laughed.  My grandmother was mortified.  We were used to it, this wasn’t our first.

I’m forty-seven, and I still call to chat.  I still want her opinion.  She’s my go to with problems.  Yeah, I love my mom.

As good as these memories are, my joy on Mother’s Day is hampered by the knowledge that my girls won’t get to experience that same connection with their mom.  They have some, but simply not enough.

Sunday Post 71: The Mother’s Role

Posted by Danny

The Top 10 Most Difficult Mother Roles A Widower Has To Learn:

10)  The Finder:  Lisa had a Stuff Radar.  I believe it was implanted in her breast during childbirth.  All mothers have this.  If stuff is missing, moms know where it is – period.

9) The Food Police:  I never worried about what my kids ate before my wife passed away.  Now I’m the Carbohydrate Cop:  “I think three pieces of bread with your Fettucini Alfredo and side of fries is enough.  Back away from the loaf.  Now.”

8)  The Beautician:  How does a dad tell his daughter her hair looks awful?  Moms just say, “What’s up with your hair?  Go back upstairs.”  If my girls ask me if their hair looks good, I don’t even have to open an eye to answer that question.  The answer is “Yes.”  I learned that the year after I got married.

7)  The Sex Educator:  Most of my talks start with the phrase: “Let me tell you what boys are thinking…”  Most of my talks end with:  “So stay away from them!”  I don’t know if this is effective.

6)  The Cab Driver:  I never knew how much she drove.  I never knew how much she found out while she drove.  They sing like birds when they don’t have to look you in the eye.

5)  The Top To Bottom Transferrer:  I keep a basket downstairs – I put stuff in it that I find downstairs that needs to go upstairs…like shoes, iPods, school books and interestingly, yesterday, a pair of underwear.  I keep a basket upstairs – I put stuff in it that needs to go downstairs…like my socks, my t-shirts, my slippers, my sweatshirts – all which have been borrowed by random children when they were too lazy to walk upstairs and get their own stuff.  Both baskets are full – always.

4)  The Reminder:  Stephanie hasn’t practiced piano one time this week.  It’s partly her fault – but mostly mine.  I’m sorry Mrs. Fields.

3)  The Playdate Primer:  Your kids have friends at school if you have friends at school.  Do you know how weird it is to call someone you don’t know and ask their kid to come play?  It’s like dating –  “Hey, I’m Michelle’s dad.  So…ah…I was wond – I mean ah – Michelle was wondering if Kimmey could come play on Saturday.  I mean if you’re out-of-town or busy, I understand…we were just hanging out and thought that maybe…if she isn’t going to some other girl’s house…”

2)  The Short Skirt Nazi:  I like short skirts – not something I’d notice as bad.  The Aunt tells me, “I guess it’s about time to get rid of that skirt DJ was wearing at church on Sunday, huh?”  “Does it have a stain?”  “Ah, no.  It has a butt hanging out of it.”  “Oh.  Hadn’t noticed.”

1)  The Heart Surgeon:  When they don’t get invited; when school  is too hard; when they made a mistake; when they don’t have the courage; when it’s time to make a Mother’s Day card at school –

The last is the hardest of all.

Happy Mother’s Day???

Posted by Danny

I used to look forward to Mother’s Day.  I enjoyed celebrating Lisa.  The girls and I would devise a plan that we thought was genius often with decorations, breakfast in bed and a dinner with a homemade pound cake for dessert (one of the few things I can cook pretty well).  I think we enjoyed planning it as much as Lisa enjoyed being celebrated.

Not so much anymore.

And it is EVERYWHERE!  You open  the paper, it’s on the front page.  You turn on the TV and find that Zales has the perfect gift for our mom; except diamonds aren’t quite as important anymore.  At Cotillion the teacher wishes all the mothers out there a beautiful day on Sunday.  Michelle comes home with art for grandma because she no longer has a mother to create for.

So – to uncelebrate today, we planned to head to the beach, Jesse, the girls and Kimmy Gibbler.  Only our local weather guy had a different idea – rain in Wilmington all afternoon.  We needed a back up plan.

We lounged around all morning and finally broke down and ate the picnic lunch I packed for the beach.  We then headed to Frankie’s Fun House – and it was.  But 30 minutes and $100 later, the fun was beginning to diminish.  What would Lisa do in this situation?  Hmmm. 

She’d go to Target, her favorite place on earth!

We bought a package of six men’s small V-neck t-shirts for $10 and a box of Crayola paint.  An hour and a half later, this was the result.

We even figured out a creative way to send my brother a birthday card (after Frankies, I couldn’t afford a stamp – hope he reads the blog tonight.)

If Lisa’s not here, there is no one on this earth that I’d rather be celebrating Mother’s Day with than my girls.  I am a lucky, lucky man.

Sunday Post 17: Our Mothers

When you have a significant loss, it takes a village to fill the gaps.  Happy Mother’s Day to all of our “moms”!

  • To Doctor Walker who gives dad guidance on our physical ailments without a Blue Cross Blue Shield copay.
  • To Darcy who served as DJ’s Elder Sponsor at church this year.
  • To Aunt Susan who reads our blog daily and leaves encouraging comments for dad.
  • To Mrs. Horton who takes care of Michelle EVERY Monday and guides dad on clothes purchases to keep us in style.
  • To Mrs. Strickland who picks us up from afterschool, coordinates DJ’s National Charity League events, and teaches us how to water ski.
  • To Mrs. Dixon who dad can call and invite us over on a Saturday night when he’s a little bit down.
  • To Aunt Sallie who’s moving all the way from Boston to live near us and help be our other mother.
  • To Mrs. Vebber who has so much style and is an encourager for our family – especially dad.  She’s says we’ll be ok.
  • To Mrs. Bond who has us over to dinner and who our dad can call for absolutely anything – from needing a kid picked up and fed to bragging about his accomplishments at work.
  • To Mrs. Thompson who brings us food every single month.
  • To Mrs. Fields our chauffeur AND piano teacher.
  • To Mrs. Bilodeau who helps us finish our homework afterschool and brings us cool dresses when they get too small for Davis Ann.
  • To Mrs. Todd, our snack provider and office buddy.
  • To Ms. Kirstie, the best and most encouraging dance teacher in the free world.
  • To Mrs. Gwaltney who is always available to bring DJ home on Tuesdays, even at the very last-minute.
  • To Mrs. Sanders who brings Michelle lunch for a special treat and sometimes home for a playdate.
  • To Mrs. Balentine, DJ’s special bud.
  • To Charlotte, Francie, Kim and Susan who remember our birthdays with a card in the mail and who took dad on college friends’ “girls weekend” last year!
  • To Beth and Sarah who take care of us, ALL of us, at church.
  • To Mrs. Carmichael who helps to remind dad about stuff that he should be doing.
  • To Mae, with her 70-year-old, 5 foot and 1/2 inch self, who washes 10 loads of laundry every other Tuesday and sews our Y Indian Princess patches on our vests.
  • And to Nana – who picks us up every Thursday, also does a mountain of laundry, takes us shopping and last week to get shots (now that’s a good mother).

We miss you  mom, but you left us in good hands.

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